Monthly Archives: December 2009

Future Shop fails again at service in French

Two years ago, blogger François Rodrigue noticed a page on Future Shop’s website with absolutely atrocious French. I blogged about it, some other people did too, and Future Shop responded by taking the page down and blaming it on a U.S.-based subcontractor.

In not-entirely-apologizing for the transgression, and reasserting the priority they place on communicating in a proper language in Quebec, spokesperson Thierry Lopez promised that “nous faisons évidemment tout notre possible pour que des erreurs telles que celle-ci ne se reproduisent pas.”

Flash-forward to a few days ago, while I’m on Future Shop’s website looking through the Boxing Day sales. A window pops up asking if I want to be part of a customer service survey, produced by a Michigan-based company called ForeSee Results.

For fun, I decided to choose French as my language. I got a window similar to this that popped up, and a survey in adequate enough French (though half the accents didn’t work). I clicked on the bottom where it said “politique de confidentialité”, wanting to know what this information would be used for.

Imagine my surprise when “politique de confidentialité”, as well as all the other links on the bottom of that survey, led to an English-only page.

Another U.S.-based subcontractor, another translation fail. You’d think they’d start learning from this.

I asked for comment from Lopez concerning this latest gaffe. Haven’t heard anything yet, but will update if there is a response.

Podcast Plan B: The Kelly Alexander Show

Podcast Plan B is a blog series about four Montreal radio personalities that have begun independent podcasts over the past few months. It’s an expansion of a Gazette article I wrote on the topic, explained here.

Kelly Alexander Show logo

  • Name: Kelly Alexander
  • Radio job: Afternoon traffic reporter for Astral Media radio stations in Montreal (CJAD, CHOM, CJFM), and host of The Jump with Kelly A, a Sunday show on CJFM.
  • Podcast: The Kelly Alexander Show
  • Podcast URL
  • Podcast feed URL: None yet
  • Length: One hour, broken up in two half-hour segments
  • Format: MP3
  • Frequency: Weekly (Thursdays)
  • Subject: Popular music, interviews and trivia

Kelly Alexander

The Kelly Alexander Show differs from the other three I’ve profiled this week for two main reasons: it includes a lot of music (and popular music at that), and it’s the only one whose host I haven’t had an hour-long conversation with.

It’s like commercial radio, only not

If you’ve listened to Mix 96 or Q92 (or whatever they’re called now), you have an idea what commercial radio sounds like. It’s active. It pumps out hit music, it has a brand and throws it out between every song. When there is talk, it’s short, fluffy, non-threatening. And no matter what, it’s always happy.

That’s kind of what you get from the Kelly Alexander Show, for better or for worse. In fact, listening to it while I was out running errands, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t listening to the radio. It even has an 80s-90s retro segment similar to the old Mix 80s-90s Nooner and Virgin’s 80s 90s On Demand.

If you’re one of those people who think that commercial radio sucks, then the Kelly Alexander Show is definitely not for you.

But commercial radio and popular music have evolved into what they are precisely because they attract the largest audience possible without alienating too many people on the fringes of their target demographics.

Besides popular music (its first song was a heavily overplayed single by the Black Eyed Peas), the Kelly Alexander Show features interviews with people in the entertainment industry, sometimes people she already knows (like her publicist David Jones) or people who have had brushes with celebrity, even if they aren’t celebrities themselves. It also has a regular segment with Alexander’s mother (“Mummy Alexander”), who throws out rapid-fire “fast facts” trivia.

When it first launched on Oct. 16, the show also featured a rant by Murray Sherriffs, who had been pretty quiet since being dumped by CJFM in January. But a month later, Sherriffs joined CFQR as a morning host, and he hasn’t returned to Alexander’s show since.

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There always has to be a first

Michelle Lang

The other day, I edited a story for Page A2 about civilians who are working in Afghanistan. It was a short but interesting story about people who work in one of the most dangerous places on Earth, and the people back home who worry about their safety. I paid little attention to the byline, one of dozens I go through during every shift.

The story was written by Michelle Lang, a reporter for the Calgary Herald who has been reporting from Afghanistan.

She’s dead now. The first Canadian journalist killed while reporting on the Afghanistan war, along with four Canadian soldiers. She was two weeks into a six-week stay stay there. She was engaged, planning to get married in June. The Herald has (lots) more.

I wish there was something more poignant and insightful I could say but “that fucking sucks.”

She was 34.

UPDATE (Dec. 31): The front page of today’s Herald:

Calgary Herald, Dec. 31, 2009

The main story is accompanied by pieces by columnists Robert Remington and Don Martin about Lang, and others about Afghanistan.

Today, city hall in Calgary lowered its flag in honour of Lang, and the names of the four soldiers who died with her have been released.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen some debate online about coverage of this journalist’s death. Some questioned a headline used at the Globe and Mail that focused on the fact she was a “bride to be”, as if we should be offended that a death is considered more tragic when the person is engaged. Others questioned the level of coverage given to this journalist, as if her death is more important than the deaths of soldiers, diplomats, aid workers or anyone else because she was a journalist.

Both are legitimate criticisms, but both are facts of life. It is more tragic because she was engaged. It is more tragic because she was a reporter. We wish it wasn’t so, but it is. It’s not fair, and it’s not balanced, but it’s true.

In any case, the Herald gets an exemption from this criticism. This was their reporter. She was part of their family.

From today’s editorial:

But forgive us if we grieve more publicly today. When it is one of your own, it makes it almost difficult to breathe. There is a huge hole in our hearts as we remember a bright face, a true friend and a fearless talent …

Remix in review

The end of the year – and particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s – is a time for lazy journalism, usually in the form of lists of “the best of” the year that’s passed. The lists are almost always subjective, incomplete, and – when it comes down to it – pointless. They don’t add anything new to the conversation. Maybe such a list might expose you to something you haven’t seen before, but usually “top” means “most popular”, so the likelihood of you not having seen it is low.

This video comes from DJ Earworm, a remix artist (via Dominic Arpin). I’ll link to the YouTube page since the website seems to be suffering under some unexpected viral load. The MP3 is free to download. It’s a remix of the top 25 songs of 2009, as judged by Billboard. That means you’re stuck with two Lady Gaga songs, two Black Eyed Peas songs, two Beyoncé songs and two Taylor Swift songs, along with Katy Perry, The Fray, Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus.

But it’s impressive, while giving a bit of exposure to each song in a way that doesn’t make me cringe. Kind of like I’ll eat mushrooms on a pizza but not by themselves, I’ll take Swift or Cyrus when remixed well with non-crap.

This isn’t a first, either. DJ Earworm did the same for 2008 and 2007.

Just imagine if all the other years in review were this … creative.

Podcast Plan B: Melnick Underground

Podcast Plan B is a blog series about four Montreal radio personalities that have begun independent podcasts over the past few months. It’s an expansion of a Gazette article I wrote on the topic, explained here.

  • Name: Mitch Melnick
  • Radio job: Afternoon host on The Team 990
  • Podcast: Melnick Underground
  • Podcast URL
  • Podcast feed URL: N/A
  • Length: About half an hour
  • Format: Flash video (hosted on Vimeo)
  • Frequency: Weekly (recorded Saturday afternoons and uploaded Saturday night or Sunday morning)
  • Subject: Chats with regulars and guests about sports (particularly the Canadiens), music and Montreal
Mitch Melnick

Mitch Melnick

“This is something I’m doing because nobody else is doing it.”

That was the basic message from Mitch Melnick as I interviewed him earlier this month. He had just finished taping his final show of the fall season at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent St., and took some time to chat while he waited for his daughter to show up.

Melnick was discouraged by the decision of CFCF 12 last fall to expand the weekend newscasts and cancel SportsNight 360, the only anglophone sports television talk show in the city. Well, maybe “discouraged” is too soft a word. “It really pissed me off,” he said.

“What they seem to be saying is there’s no room on local television for something that’s been here for 25-30 years, 30 minutes of sports discussion.”

When you consider the massive anglophone fan base of the Canadiens (Habs Inside/Out‘s stats are rising by the week, and there are dozens of amateur Canadiens blogs out there), it seemed ludicrous to him that none of the three television stations based here could keep a simple weekly sports talk show on the air.

The termination of Ron Reusch didn’t help matters either.

Of course, because The Team 990 is owned by CTVglobemedia, it places Melnick in an odd situation. He doesn’t want to shit all over his employer. Instead, his criticisms are directed at the television media in general. CBC and Global are no more or less guilty than CTV in his mind, whether it’s the lack of local programming or the Local TV Matters campaign he says he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t know what they’re trying to protect.

Why can’t we do that?

“During Wimbledon, I was checking Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,” Melnick said.

He was impressed that rather than a simple written wrapup of what was going on, Cox would file short videos (you can see an example here).

“I’m looking at that and going ‘Jeez, if he can do that, why can’t we do what I do in the afternoon (on the radio) but a shorter version on camera? That was my additional thought, to just stare into a camera for 20 minutes.”

Upon further reflection, Melnick decided he needed some people to talk to, and a location to do it.

“If Ron Reusch was still doing his show, I probably wouldn’t be doing this,” Melnick said. “Maybe it would be in a different form, maybe I’d be doing a podcast.”

But because there wasn’t anything out there on video, Melnick decided his show had to be on camera. “I don’t see that everywhere. Everybody does a podcast,” he said, but nobody is doing it on a screen.

A television studio was out of the question, even if he could afford it. “I have no interest in doing this in a TV studio,” he said. It’s unfriendly, it’s dry, it’s unconnected to the city.

In comes Hurley’s Irish Pub, a bar Melnick has frequented for as long as it’s been here. He’s friends with the owner, and getting to use it as a set wasn’t a problem – provided they wrapped up their shooting before the crowds started pouring in for the Saturday night hockey game. Which is why they tape the show in the afternoon. The bar even kicks in some money as an official sponsor, figuring that the set is an advertisement in itself.

After considering some locations upstairs or outside, Melnick settled on a spot facing the bar. “It’s just a very warm feeling when you look at it,” he explained.

“This is like my old basement when I was a teenager. I had a room like this, except there was white stucco on the ceiling. It was ’70s Chomedey, I had a big fireplace, and I watched sports and played sports games and listened to music. I was always underground. I’m very at home here. … Except there’s a little more booze involved.”

On Oct. 3, Episode 1 of Melnick Underground hit the Internet and his website. The peanut gallery was quick to respond.

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The new Page 1 Story

It’s that time of year again, when journalists all take their vacations, the B-teams take over to deal with any breaking news (like, say, an unscheduled mob shooting), and the news media fill the lack of news with retrospectives of the year gone by, the journalistic equivalent of a clip show.

The Gazette devotes a page a day over 10 days to the subject, looking back at both 2009 and the 2000s as a whole.

Dave Bist, a highly-respected senior news editor at The Gazette, wrote one of those year-in-retrospective stories for Sunday’s paper about the Michael Jackson story, and his decision not to tear up the front page to run with it.

His reasoning was that by the morning after, everyone would have known that Jackson was dead (including readers of, where the story was played up), and because The Gazette had nothing original to offer on the story (the original plan for A1 had a Gazette exclusive, albeit a small one). So instead, Jackson took over the skybox above the Page 1 flag, as well as a large part of the Arts section inside.

It’s a decision that makes sense, but wouldn’t have 15 years ago before the creation of the Internet. Though I worry a bit sometimes about newspapers being so desperate to “advance” a story that they neglect to mention what actually happened for the record (like, say, “Man walks moon“). People still pick up newspapers even if they know what the story is, just to see it on paper. Barack Obama’s election, the Alouettes’ Grey Cup win, or the next Canadiens Stanley Cup, which should come any time now. If I pick up the paper, I want to see “Canadiens win Cup”, not “RDS hurries to schedule parade coverage after NHL playoffs end early”, even if the latter advances the story.

And while the print world considers what to do about their front pages, the online world is still trying to figure out how to balance so-called “top stories”. Right now, the emphasis seems to be on time more than importance – big news websites are expected to change their top story on an almost hourly basis, unless the story is so important that it trumps all others. People complain when they see that the top story is about some recent traffic accident or something sports-related, but they’re applying the old newspaper Page 1 logic to the Internet.

I’m still conflicted about it. This blog is strictly chronological, so an important feature might be pushed down by some funny cat video I found online a few minutes later. That clearly doesn’t work for a large media organization that has so much content that nobody should be expected to read it all. But keeping the same story up for hours or even days at a time makes it boring and discourages people from coming back.

Ideally, we’d have a dual system, where you can check the top story on the homepage or see the stories posted chronologically, depending on your preference (the Toronto Star is trying something like that). And, of course, tagging, RSS feeds and topic pages means the homepage won’t be the point of entry for many visitors.

So maybe this whole discussion will become irrelevant.

When TMZ gets it wrong

I hate TMZ. I hate everything it stands for. I hate the idea that someone who was on U.S. television for 30 seconds has suddenly lost the right to go to the pharmacy without being harassed by some guy with a camera asking a bunch of questions. I especially hate that TV show they have (it comes on after the Colbert Report, and sometimes I’m slow at changing the channel), which seems to consist mainly of running into random celebrities on the street with a video camera and asking them how they’re doing.

I don’t blame TMZ, though. They’re filling a demand, just like all the other gossip mags. Instead, the blame rests squarely on the people who consume this content: You. If everyone was as disinterested in celebrity gossip as I am, TMZ and its ilk would have no readers, no revenue, no money to pay photographers, stalkers and other scoop-chasers.

In fact, I respect TMZ. There are few worlds as cut-throat as celebrity gossip, and that brand appeared out of nowhere to suddenly own it. It broke the Michael Jackson story, it broke the Brittany Murphy story, and a bunch of lesser-known ones as well.

Love it or hate it, when the Jackson story broke this year, everyone as frantically reloading looking for an update. And its record has brought it to the point where it can report something and mainstream media will re-report it, citing TMZ as their only source.

It was just a matter of time before TMZ would fall face-first into its own pile of crap. And it happened Monday morning on what it thought was a huge exclusive story: A photo of John F. Kennedy, taken before he became president, partying with some naked girls on a boat. The significance, it argued: If the photo had come out in the 1950s, it would have sunk Kennedy’s presidential campaign and probably “changed history.”

TMZ went through due diligence in authenticating the photo. It got a forensic photo expert to say that the photo showed no evidence of digital manipulation, and said other unnamed “experts” also looked at the photo and said it appeared to be authentic. The story focused heavily on the authentication process itself, partly to convince people it was legitimate, and partly to leave open the possibility that it might not be.

Early comments on the story argued about whether or not it was fake, discussing everything from shadows to 1950s fashion. Most called people who disagreed with them names, and complained that they were not experts.

Within hours, The Smoking Gun, another website that has built a reputation for itself of being thorough researchers, posted a story saying TMZ had fallen for a hoax, that the photo in question is actually from a 1967 Playboy photo spread, and that the man in the photo was an actor, not JFK.

TMZ later posted another story, saying questions had been raised about the photo’s authenticity. Later it confirmed what The Smoking Gun had said, and concluded the man in the photo was not JFK.

Soon, the mainstream media was piling on. Google News lists 766 articles, including one by the New York Times, which points out that both TMZ and The Smoking Gun are owned (through different subsidiaries) by Time Warner.

Quoted by the Times, TMZ executive producer Harvey Levin said “We’re not happy about it, but this is part of journalism.”

He’s right. Journalists get suckered like this all the time. And TMZ was right about the photo not being Photoshopped – Photoshop hadn’t been created when the photo was taken. It’s just that nobody bothered to check old issues of Playboy.

Comparisons with “Rathergate” – the Bush document scandal that got Dan Rather knocked off CBS – are apt here. Both involve documents that were authenticated but later turned out to be fakes. Both were good-faith, well-researched stories (that would probably be protected under a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision on libel), but both ultimately failed because the drive for a controversial story overpowered the need to get it right, and because a journalist interpreted an expert’s opinion that they couldn’t find anything wrong with a document as some sort of guarantee that the document must be authentic.

Still, TMZ will recover from this embarrassment. It will continue to break stories, and while they may be more cautious, or include more disclaimers, the mainstream media will keep re-reporting them.

My only major gripe with TMZ, though, is that the original story is still there, with no update, no correction, no indication at all that the story has been exposed as a hoax. I realize that failure to update old stories online is a problem in print media (Craig Silverman mentions it often), but even the most technologically-inept of publications knows that if you put up a story that turns out to have been false, you have to update it to say so.

Fix that, and my respect grows back a bit.

But no matter what, I still hate TMZ.

UPDATE (Jan. 19): Basem Boshra has similar thoughts in his Gazette column.

Podcast Plan B: The Stuph File with Peter Anthony Holder

Podcast Plan B is a blog series about four Montreal radio personalities that have begun independent podcasts over the past few months. It’s an expansion of a Gazette article I wrote on the topic, explained here.

  • Name: Peter Anthony Holder
  • Radio job: Former host of Holder Tonight on CJAD 800AM in Montreal, simulcast on CFRB 1010AM in Toronto
  • Podcast: The Stuph File
  • Podcast URL
  • Length: About 56 minutes
  • Format: MP3
  • Frequency: Weekly (airs and is released online on Mondays)
  • Subject: Interviews, segments with regular guests, and strange news stories (“anything but politics,” he explains)

Peter Anthony Holder

You could call Peter Anthony Holder a pioneer. That is, if he’s successful.

On Aug. 5, Holder got the news, along with many others, that he was being let go from CJAD Radio. The overnight show Holder Tonight, which he hosted since 1990, had aired its last show the night before, and he didn’t even know it at the time. He had to cancel the coming night’s guest and go home.

As fans expressed outrage at CJAD’s decision to let him go in whatever medium they could find to do so, Holder kept quiet. He had planned to go on vacation anyway, he explained on his blog a month later, so he just went ahead and did that, contemplating what he would do now.

He also defended CJAD’s decision to fire people without giving them a chance to say goodbye to their listeners:

People who do live radio do not and should not get a chance to say goodbye. With 50,000 watts of raw power on two radio stations beaming across all of eastern Canada, into three Border States and beyond, no broadcast outlet in their right mind would give a talk show host who is about to be shown the door a chance to vent their spleen. That would be tantamount to being let go from a major corporation in a major metropolitan area and right after they escort you to the curb of their shiny high rise at high noon, they hand you a bull horn.

It seems incredible that someone who has had the same job for two decades – and in radio for most of his adult life (you can see his complete resume on his website) – would be so understanding about his own termination, but Holder points out that, in commercial radio, you’re hired to be fired. The station looked at numbers being pumped out by these new electronic devices that people wear, and they were telling managers that Holder’s show wasn’t attracting enough to make him profitable anymore.

As you can imagine, Holder disagreed with that assessment. He knew there was a business model that could make the show work. But now it was up to him to figure it out.

Besides, he kept reading those strange news stories, and he needed an outlet to talk about them.

“The best part of my job was finding a bunch of weird and wacky people,” Holder said. “After leaving CJAD, it was ‘Oh, I have no reason to call somebody.'”

Holder said the idea of a podcast had been swimming around the back of his head for a while. “CJAD at any time can take away my airtime. They really can’t take away my show. I said that at a time when there wasn’t an outlet.”

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You’re not watching Fox

As Canadians ponder whether to create a system similar to the U.S. for negotiation between cable/satellite carriers and broadcast television stations, the U.S. system is having its own issues: Fox and Time Warner Cable are at an impasse in negotiations, and if they don’t come to an agreement before Jan. 1, the Fox-owned stations (and possibly affiliates as well) could get removed from Time Warner Cable systems.

Naturally, people down there are panicking (at least those who know about the dispute). That’s leading some to ask the obvious question: Why are we being asked to pay for something that’s free? And why are two giant megacorporations pretending that they’re on my side?

Politicians have also gotten involved. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, wrote a letter to both companies urging a negotiated settlement, saying that if Fox was removed from Time Warner Cable, television viewers would be deprived of vital news and information programming, and would lose an important connection with their local communities.

Haha, just kidding. Kerry’s only worried about BCS football games on Jan. 1, which Fox has the exclusive rights to.

UPDATE (Dec. 30): Denis McGrath gives some context on how this compares with the Canadian fee-for-carriage debate.

Podcast Plan B: David Tyler Unleashed

Podcast Plan B is a blog series about four Montreal radio personalities that have begun independent podcasts over the past few months. It’s an expansion of a Gazette article I wrote on the topic, explained here.

David Tyler Unleashed logo

David Tyler

David Tyler

I’ll start this series with an apology: Sorry David Tyler, I had to cut you out of my story. I thought I could fit in a lot more in the 750 words I was assigned, and I just couldn’t fit everyone in. The story was about podcasts as independent business ventures, and David Tyler Unleashed was more of a just-for-fun thing. It isn’t as regular as the other ones, and it’s only guaranteed four episodes so far, while the others have long-term plans for the new year.

Still, I feel bad not only because I spent an hour on the phone with Tyler, but because he has the best story about being fired from radio.

“The program director at the time, Chris Kennedy, called me into his office,” Tyler told me. “I was showing him the renovations on my house that I just started. I was showing him the pictures on my brand new iPhone. And suddenly he had this look on his face.”

While Tyler was dreaming of home renovation in August 2008, Kennedy and management at Corus’s Q92 were thinking of going in a new direction, doing something different (and other similar euphemisms). They’re be redoing the weekday midday, and David Tyler wasn’t part of their plans.

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Podcast Plan B: Montreal radio personalities try going solo

It’s been a while since my byline was in the paper (as my mom keeps reminding me). My day … err, night job as a copy editor keeps me busy enough, so I haven’t had any need or much time to indulge in freelance writing. But I knew at some point a story would cross my desk RSS reader that was too interesting not to write.

It started with Peter Anthony Holder, who was fired from his job as overnight host at CJAD in August, a job he had for 20 years. A month later, partly at the suggestion of local marketing guru Mitch Joel, Holder began a weekly podcast talking about the same stuff as he did on his radio show.

Then, in October, other podcasts came on the local radar. Mitch Melnick (CKGM The Team 990) began Melnick Underground. Kelly Alexander (CJFM Virgin Radio 96) started up The Kelly Alexander Show, and David Tyler (formerly of CFQR the Q 92.5) began David Tyler Unleashed. All this in a month.

The formats were different, lengths were different, and circumstances were different (two were by fired radio personalities, but two are still on the air). One thing they all had in common was that they’re being independently produced. Astral Media, Corus Entertainment, CTVglobemedia, they have nothing to do with the financing or production of these shows. And the hosts are happy with that, because it offers them something they can’t get on local commercial radio: full editorial independence.

In Monday’s Your Business section today, I write a short piece (well, it’s long by newspaper article standards, but way shorter than I had material to write for) about three of these entrepreneurs and their podcasts, none of which is at the point where it’s making any serious money yet. It’s illustrated with a Dave Sidaway photo of Kelly Alexander in her home studio. (It was also posted to

Because I had so much material (I spent an hour each on the phone with Holder and Tyler, an hour in person with Melnick, and had an email exchange with Alexander), I’m complementing the article with a series on this blog, one a day for the next four days.

In this series:

Christmas hugs

On Wednesday, two days before Christmas (and as I was rushing to get the last of my shopping done before a shift at work), I passed by this trio of happiness-peddlers at the McGill metro station, advertising free hugs for everyone who passed by.

Though their signs were in English only (one can only imagine what the OQLF would have done), the oral pitches were bilingual. In fact, they didn’t even speak English all that well. Or French. But all they needed was “Free hugs! Câlins gratuits!” and some outstretched arms to get their message across.

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2009-10 guide to holiday transit

Mostly cribbed from last year’s guide.

Here’s what to expect from the Montreal-area transit authorities for service this holiday season, including special holiday service schedules and free service days.

Once again, I ask that you have some sympathy for the bus or metro driver who has to work during the holidays getting whiny vomiting drunk people from A to B in thick snow.

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Merry Christmas from Transcontinental (P.S.: You’re fired)

When was the last time you read a community weekly from Transcontinenal Media? When was the last time you learned anything interesting from it about your neighbourhood that you couldn’t get from the borough newsletter?

Most of the on-island community papers are pathetic – many don’t even have a full-time journalist – but others have been giving it the ol’ college try despite their tiny budgets.

Those budgets, though, are about to get smaller.

On the Friday before Christmas, just days after the latest earnings report showed good news for the parent company, journalists at Transcontinental-owned weeklies across town got the news that their services would no longer be required starting Jan. 8. Among them are two on the West Island: Raffy Boudjikanian of the West Island Chronicle and Olivier Laniel of Cités Nouvelles. It’s unclear at the moment (even to them) if these are temporary or permanent layoffs.

Normally, the downsizing of two journalists wouldn’t be a big deal, but these newspapers are running on a skeleton staff as it is. What was once a newsroom of three now becomes a newsroom of two.

One of those is the editor, who will now become a reporter. Albert Kramberger at the Chronicle, Marie-Claude Simard at Cités Nouvelles and Wayne Larsen at the Westmount Examiner. This appears to also be the case chain-wide. Their salaries will remain essentially the same or have slight reductions, depending.

Montreal regional manager Stéphane Vinet

The exact nature of the measures taken by Transcontinental is not absolutely clear. According to Benoit Leblanc, president of the Syndicat de l’information de Transcontinental, they affect a dozen employees, three of whom have definitely lost their jobs. Another vacant position is being eliminated.

As for Transcontinental, it’s not talking to the media. Stéphane Vinet, the Montreal regional manager for Transcontinental Media who is responsible for weekly papers on the island, did not respond to a request for information.

His name, meanwhile, is being spoken along with unkind words by some of the journalists involved.

Those who spoke to me asked me to not to name them for fear of reprisals. So I offer them anonymity even though the entire pool of editorial staff at the three newspapers mentioned above is less than a dozen. One journalist was angry, saying Transcon “declares journalists are obsolete for their ad rags” and that this was a retaliation for union grievances. Two others shrugged and accepted the cost-cutting as a fact of life, and that they’ll just find other sources of income.

It’s easy to say (as I did above) that these newspapers are garbage and this is just the continuation of their suicidal death spirals. Looking back just a decade, many of these newspapers looked a lot different, they were well connected with their communities, they didn’t just copy-paste press releases or use the same stories as their neighbours.

But there’s still just a little bit of journalism coming out of these papers, and that’s where they’re cutting. Laniel last week compiled a list of salaries for West Island mayors. Boudjikanian has been following the case against a snow plow company that hasn’t delivered on its promises. Neither of these can be replaced by a press release.

The cuts also mean an end to paid freelance work, what little is left of it anyway. Unpaid contributors, of which there are unfortunately many, will not be affected. Since, you know, they’re unpaid.